There was something of a brannigan on the Facebooks the other day because of comments around a link to this video on Jenn Casey’s wall:
Jenn posted the link and started the discussion with this comment:
I’m recommending this mainly for Dr. Sicherer’s comments about reasonable allergy precautions. I also don’t see the need for this mouth-rinsing policy at this school (and no idea who came up with it–school? doc? parents?). Even so–the way these protesting parents are behaving is RIDICULOUS and inexcusable.
If you can see her wall, you can see some of the comments. Unfortunately, one person joined the discussion who dissented from the popular, Jenn’s view and, I am also sorry to say, he has deleted his comments, so I cannot claim to be presenting his view accurately herein. The dispute even bled over to Diana’s wall, but the comments there have been deleted as well.
Diana points out in that thread that the person who made those remarks has been, by all accounts, a decent fellow.
My hope is to address what I think is his legitimate even if wrong concern around this issue.
If I recall correctly, he really doesn’t have any desire to kill children with peanut allergies and he doesn’t find it objectionable to be asked by the school to keep his deadly-to-them substances at home. What he finds problematic is the compulsory nature of the instruction. The government-run school doesn’t say, “It would be cool if you could refrain from sending stuff to school with your children that might kill some of the other children. kthx.” The government-run school says, “You absolutely may not, under penalty of something, allow your children to bring things to school with your children that might kill other people’s kids.”
Non-Objectivists probably do not understand what the problem is here because it’s a fairly universally held sentiment that dead children are a VERY BAD THING. So, if we have to tie people to the bumpers of their own cars to keep them from killing babies, we should probably look to see if Overstock.com has a deal on rope.
But the Objectivist view of government is such that it is dedicated solely and exclusively to the task of protecting individual rights.
So, the person who was objecting to the rules was saying something like, “If the government is to set about protecting individual rights, how can we possibly argue that the government is doing that when it is forbidding parents from feeding their children the food they deem suitable?” It certainly does not help this discussion that we’re talking about public schools, which is a context that simply would not exist in a society where the government is limited to the protection of individual rights.
If you know for a fact that someone could die or even be hurt if you expose them to peanuts, it is a violation of their rights to expose them to peanuts. It’s really as simple as that.
Some parents argue that it is the responsibility of those who have such allergies to ensure that they aren’t exposed to peanuts, but that’s like saying it’s my responsibility to dodge the bullets that you’re firing wildly into the crowd of which I am a part.
Let’s remember: the situation isn’t one in which school administrators are simply guessing that someone might have a severe allergy to peanuts. They know for a fact they have students with this condition and they have to protect them. And it is not optional for you at all to bring peanuts to where these students might come into contact with them and maybe die. Not even a little bit.
This isn’t tyranny or a violation of your rights. This is a legitimate constraint on your actions to prevent you (or your kids) from killing other people’s kids because that would be a violation of their rights.